Identity Theft and Retirement: How to Protect Yourself

Identity theft is a problem that impacts millions of people annually and retirees and older Americans have recently been targeted at higher rates than other segments of the population.
Identity Theft and Retirement: How to Protect Yourself

Individuals over the age of 65 years lost an estimated $36.5 billions dollars annually and about $3 billion of those dollars were taken via identity theft. Of those who have lost money due to identity theft, the average losses over the course of five years averaged $7,633. 1

How to Protect Yourself

If you’re a retiree or you’re approaching retirement age, it’s important to fully understand how to protect yourself from identity theft. Below are some important behaviors that can help save you countless hours of headaches and many thousands of dollars due to identity theft during your golden years:
• Regularly monitor your checking and savings accounts as well as your investment and retirement accounts. Many older Americans believe they’re immune to identity theft if they don’t use Internet banking or technologies such as social media, but that’s a false sense of security. In reality, most Americans are better protected if they set up online access to their accounts. The Equifax breach is a good example of how identity theft can happen to people who have few or no dealings online. 1,4,5
• Pay attention to credit card bills and bank statements. Do you see items listed that you didn’t buy? Are the statements accurate? This could indicate that someone has accessed your credit card information. Consider going paperless whenever you have the opportunity. 1
• Debt collection calls from accounts you’ve never opened or loans you’ve never applied for are a red flag. Check into these kinds of issues right away and keep digging until you discover why you’re receiving these kinds of calls. 1
• Create strong, complex passwords that are hard to hack. Avoid using information like your birthday or a pet’s name in a password. Regularly change your passwords and never use the same ones twice. 1
• Review your credit report annually. Also, check your credit score on a regular basis. Do these things accurately represent the reality of your financial health? 1
• Be mindful of your iPhone. It contains information about your bank account, personal data, contacts, photos of you, and more that could be used to steal your identity. 2
• ? On your iPhone go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services. Turn Location Services to “off”. When this service is “on”, a number of companies have access to information about your location that’s updated up to 14,000 times per day. This is a huge impediment to your personal privacy. For Google Maps or Lyft, specify that location updates are made only “While Using the App”. 2
• ? On your iPhone go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services. Turn Location Services to “off”. When this service is “on”, a number of companies have access to information about your location that’s updated up to 14,000 times per day. This is a huge impediment to your personal privacy. For Google Maps or Lyft, specify that location updates are made only “While Using the App”. 2
• On your iPhone go to Settings > Privacy > Camera and disable access to your camera. Also, go to Settings > Privacy > Microphone and disable access to your microphone as well. 2
• Install anti-virus software and firewall software on your computer. 1
• Shred any physical financial statements and receipts. 1
• Collect your mail every day and put it on hold at the post office if you plan to be traveling in order to avoid having someone steal sensitive information that’s been sent via post. And never leave sensitive information unattended in your car even if it’s locked. 1
• Never give out your personal information over the phone, in-person, or online. 1
• Avoid using public Wi-Fi networks to check bank accounts, social media accounts, or email. 1
• Never carry your social security card with you and don’t carry documents that list your social security number on them unless it’s absolutely necessary. Guard your social security number carefully. 1

Mobile phone security is an important consideration for anyone who wants to protect themselves from identity theft. SIM-swap attacks are common these days where an identity thief steals bits and pieces of your personal information in order to convince your cell phone provider to transfer your number and account into the thief’s possession. Once the thief has control over your phone, they can break into all accounts connected with the phone. 3

The Equifax data breach in September 2017 was a grim reminder of the fact that a loss of personal data can happen even if you’re extremely conscientious about passwords, and online behaviors. This breach affected just under half of the population of the United States. Though Equifax is compensating consumers and offering credit monitoring services to victims who request it, it’s hard to recoup on the emotional cost of having to recover an identity that’s been stolen. Individuals who are retired or nearing retirement are being affected at unprecedented rates and the financial devastation at this stage in a person’s life can be hard to recover from. Equifax victims are being compensated, but victims of identity theft resulting from negligence can lose countless hours and a lot of money that will never be recovered despite their best efforts. 4,5


Citations.

1 - money.com/money/5643347/seniors-lose-3-billion-to-identity-theft-each-year-do-this-immediately-to-protect-yourself/

2 - mashable.com/article/apple-iphone-privacy-settings/

3 - engadget.com/2019/06/28/cell-phone-hack-is-ruining-lives-identity-theft/

4 - equifaxbreachsettlement.com/

5 - nytimes.com/2019/07/22/business/equifax-settlement.html